THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT CEREMONY OF 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE WHITE HOUSE The South Lawn
12:32 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, and good afternoon. I know I speak for all of us in thanking David McCullough for that wonderful review of President Adams' life and presidency. We could all listen to him all day and never stop learning.
I thank Bob Stanton for his distinguished work at the Park Service. I'd like to thank Representatives Delahunt and Markey for coming here, for representing the state of Massachusetts, home of the Adams family. I thank all the descendants of the Adams family who are here with us today, and I know that they share in the pride all Americans feel for the contributions of John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, and so many other members of their family, to the richness of our nation's history.
Mayor Williams, thank you for joining us here today. I'd like to thank the members of the White House Historical Association Board, including Bob Breedan and Hugh Sidey and Neil Horstman, who helped this month of celebrations possible. I'd like to thank the people here at the White House who played their role -- Milanne Verveer, the First Lady's Chief of Staff, who has worked so hard on the historic preservation work we've been honored to do these last eight years; and especially our chief usher, Gary Walters, and through him all the members of the White House staff -- for 200 years now have been the unsung heroes of making this place work every day, making it a place available to the American people, and still a home for the President and his family.
I'd also like to thank the United States Marine Band. For more than 200 years they have set a standard of musical excellence that has enriched this house and our entire nation. They have been the President's own, and for me it has been a special honor and treat. They have stirred the spirits of more people than President Adams could ever have imagined when he signed the bill creating the Marine Band. And today their music is in honor of his memory. So let's give them a big hand. Thank you very much for being here. (Applause.)
As David McCullough just said, the capital city President Adams helped to shape was a very different place than the Washington we know today. Our nation was new, and still carving out the symbols that would define it forever. History tells us that even as the city's planners debated the final design of this house, masons laid its stone foundations more than four feet thick. Like our nation's founders, these men were building a monument to freedom and they wanted it to last.
In 1814, when the British troops captured Washington, they entered the President's House, as it was then known, to find supper still on the table. The First Lady, Dolly Madison, had prepared it for her husband, but had to leave it behind when she fled. Well, the British were uncouth enough to eat the supper before they set fire to the house. (Laughter.) When the smoke finally cleared, it was just a charred shell; but the stone walls stood strong, and so did our nation.
For two centuries now, Americans have looked to the White House as a symbol of leadership in times of crisis, a reassurance in times of uncertainty, of continuity in times of change, a celebration in times of joy. These walls carry the story of America. It was here at the White House that President Jefferson first unrolled maps of a bountiful continent to plan the Lewis and Clark expedition. Here that President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves, some of whose ancestors have quarried the very stone from which the White House was built. Here, that President Roosevelt held the Fireside Chats, willing his nation through the Depression, then marshaling our allies through the war.
Over the course of two centuries, the White House has also been home to 40 Presidents and their families, including mine. Hillary, Chelsea and I love this house. We have loved living here. It is still a thrill every time I drive up in a car or land on the back lawn in the helicopter, just to look at this magnificent place, and to feel the honor of sharing its history for these eight years. We are profoundly grateful to the American people for letting it be our home for these years.
One of the best things about it, like any home, is welcoming others to share in its beauty and history. Not just heads of state or great artists or famous scholars, but the people this house really belongs to -- the American people.
The White House is the only executive residence in the entire world that is regularly open, free of charge, to the public. And every year, nearly a million and a half people walk through its halls, marveling at the history and taking away perhaps a little better sense of who we are as a nation.
Hillary has taken a special interest in supporting this living museum, showcasing the full diversity of our nation's art, culture and history. I thank her, especially, for establishing the Sculpture Garden over here to my left in the Jackie Kennedy Garden. And from the day we moved in, she has also devoted herself to preserving the White House, and has personally overseen the restoration of several of its public rooms, rooms on the Residence floor, on the second floor and on the third floor.
Working with the White House Historical Association, she's also helped to raise a lasting endowment, something that is profoundly important because it will enable us to better preserve the White House and its collections for all generations to come.
In renewing this beloved monument to our nation's history and freedom, we also renew our commitment to the dream of our founders -- that our democracy, built upon bedrocks of liberty and justice, will grow ever stronger and remain forever young.
So as the White House enters its third century, let us remember President John Adams, being grateful to him for his many contributions to our republic and his determination to define us as one nation. And let us share his prayer that in this house the best of blessings will be bestowed, and that leaders here will find the wisdom and the guidance to do well by our nation, to do well by all of our people, and to be a responsible leader in the larger world.
That's what John Adams tried to do; that's what America has tried to do for 200 years now. We are still in the business of forming that more perfect union of our founders' dreams. I hope and believe he would be pleased.
Now, let the celebration begin. (Applause.)
END 12:40 P.M. EST